Review of Wu Legends at Button Factory on July 15th 2012
Sunday night at the Button Factory, and someone’s multiplied ‘Swedish House Mafia carnage’ and ‘hip-hop gig’ and come up with ‘metal detectors on the door’. The queue as a result, is round the block. When we do edge in, local hip-hop heroes Costello are ploughing through an impressive if slightly excessively Wu-worshipping intro, forming a tight-knit barrage of wit on urban Dublin. Patches of the crowd openly mock the crew’s accented take on rap (it’s not lost on us that the same selection are delivering Wu Tang lyrics in accented brogue shortly afterwards), but we’re impressed with the local flavour of Costello in particular. Composed in his delivery, as well as some intricate backing tracks from DJ Moist Chops.
When the WU Legends – consisting of three of the remaining eight, Raekwon, GZA and Ghostface Killa – turn comes around, The Button Factory gives a raucous reception even before DJ Symphony’s finished his tribute to fallen heroes J Dilla and Guru (“RIP, VIP…”). The Dublin date of this tour was a late addition, replacing the Birmingham UK date at only a few weeks’ notice. Typically, we’d be inclined to look on such a ‘legends’ package as something of a money-grabbing exercise. Wu Tang Clan, though, have often openly talked about the collective being a means to an end; a route into individual, chart raiding glory. It’s undeniably proved a successful one, and they’ve been no less open about their desire to make huge great wads of cash, so we can hardly say this tour is out of character. Tonight’s show is delivered with all the energy and aggro you’d hope for.
The highlight comes towards the end, when a lively Cavan lad dubbed ‘Cocaine Man’ by the Wu Tang crew joins a Raheny native on stage to run through ‘Protect Your Neck’, with Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Method Man’s parts played by the locals. ‘Cocaine Man’ – let’s assume no more than that he’s extremely highly strung, but those are certainly some incredible dance moves – delivers Method Man’s lines with a flourish, before break dancing his way off-stage via a loved up hug with Raekwon. He’s the energetic high point, but tonight’s set rarely lacks vitality.
The set consists of a mix of Wu Tang classics and solo efforts, with Ghostface Killah taking the lead, joining Raekwon in stepping forward and egging on an enthralled crowd. ‘Liquid Swords’ sees GZA at his best, snarling his way through the ‘snort cocaine, act insane’ line with the crowd for backing, but his tendency is to sit back and let the other pair take the lead. ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ and ‘Ice Cream’ kick things into top gear, then ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’, dedicated to Ol’ Dirty Bastard, sees the stage is lit only by lighters and mobile phones and ‘yeah baby I like it raw’ line echoing through the crowd. It’s a mellow high towards the close of a manic set, and still as memorable as 18 years ago.
A less obvious highlight comes in the instructional angles of ‘Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’, which the trio power through bitterly, right before throwing in that ‘best gig of the tour’ line (hard to agree with once you check out the YouTube footage from Brixton a few days ago). ‘Bring Da Ruckus’ is equally abrasive, with Ghostface Killah strutting his way through fierce lines, hyping the crowd with a single raised arm (‘an I shape for Ireland’) as the layered vocals throw down a storm in place of RZA’s cutting chorus line refrain.
If we had to pick holes, GZA seems to be going through the motions, and a whole host of songs only got the briefest of intros before being cut and tripping on to the next one, but that’s just us being picky. Wu Legends distinctive flows still meld together flawlessly, and while the energy on stage might not match that ‘New York in the 90s’ vibe, we’ve rarely seen a Button Factory audience spitting back every word like tonight. They might be past their peak, but these east coast legends can still draw the linked-thumb Ws and lead the party without so much as a stutter.